One of the most interesting places I visited during my Louisville trip was the Frazier International History Museum. Now that name is a bit curious, when you think about it. I must admit, I had no idea what an "international history" museum would have exactly. In fact, it is "international" in some regards, but its focus appears to be military and weapons history. But let me back up a moment and introduce this piece with a little secret. When I visited the museum one early morning--I think it opens at 9AM, and there were plenty of school children running about on tours--I went up to pay for my ticket at the front counter. The woman behind the desk asked if I were a student.
I said "No--no more!" The tickets were listed as either $9 or $10 for adults. Students get a reduced entry fee. But then, for some reason, I said, "but I'm an educator!" It just came out of me. I'm a librarian. I teach classes and seminars and workshops. So it just came out. Then another woman who worked at the museum overheard me and piped up: "well, teachers get in for free!" Well, that's the best discount of them all then! The woman behind the counter said: "do you have your work ID?" I did. And I handed it to her. "That works for me," she responded. And I got my free ticket. And I went in to enjoy another fine museum. It always seems like the best times are had when the best deals are had. Like a good meal, it tastes better when it doesn't cost much. Of course, this isn't always true, and sounds a bit cheap-skate-ish. But there is some psychology there.
What I'd say also, though, is that by giving me free admission, I'm more likely to donate to this museum, because they provided this option. And I'm more likely to respond positively to museums and institutions who treat patrons well. Back to the point of this museum and its bookish wares: this was overwhelmingly a weapons and war museum. When I mentioned this to someone during the conference, I was told that they changed the name of the museum or had considered its potential names for publicity reasons. They figured that not many people would want to come to a "war" or "military" or "weapons" museum outside of the middle-aged male demographic. So they reformulated and reformatted it to "international history." Don't get me wrong, it's a fine and informative museum. Just a lot of guns and weaponry.
My main interest, of course, was in the books. There was a gift and book shop in the museum, right near the entrance. You can see part of it here. But the real gem, in my opinion, was the Boone family Bible, which can be seen in the first photographs of today's blog. The placard notes that the Bible doesn't conclusively show that it actually belonged to Daniel Boone himself; rather it was his family's Bible. Still, this is a fine bit of bibliographic history, and one which I'm rather fascinated by. There is a certain bit of mystique to the possessions of famous people, but even greater mystique to the possessions of legendary people, like Daniel Boone. Perhaps this goes with the fact that we don't have a photographic image of such characters, like Boone, who have been turned into veritable Greek myths of the American frontier. And the closest we get to such illuminations of the past in our own space and time is through their objects. It is a bit like Roman Catholic reliquaries containing the bones, blood, or hair of a saint. It somehow emotes a magical-mystical aura of history, power, and godliness...into the present.
Now this Bible may not even have been held by Daniel Boone, but it was certainly in the possession of his family. And still, it possessed, at least for me, that sort of powerful semiotic function of binding the (perhaps created) heroic past of a Kentucky frontier with the less than heroic, quiet, uneventful, sunny morning in downtown 21st century Louisville. Sometimes a 200-year-0ld Bible will do that to a person: leather-bound word o' God meets iPods and cafe latte. That's a bit of a culture shift. The artifacts of history will undoubtedly make you reflect, and consider a world without such amenities and pleasantries as soy milk, espresso, air conditioning, and GPS. All Daniel Boone had was his cap, satchel, and musket! And probably a Bible.